Professor Carl Smythe

Professor Carl Smythe

Professor of Cell Biology
Director: Faculty of Science Mass Spectrometry Centre
Department of Biomedical Science
The University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield S10 2TN
United Kingdom

Room: E03a Florey building
Telephone: +44 (0) 114 222 4643


Cell Biology and Cancer


Brief career history

  • 2002 – present: Professor of Cell Biology, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield
  • 2004 – 2006: Head of Department, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield
  • 1992 – 2002: Principal Investigator at MRC Protein Phosphorylation Unit, University of Dundee
  • 1989 – 1992: American Cancer Society Senior Research Fellow, University of California, San Diego
  • 1985 – 1989: British Diabetic Association postdoctoral research assistant at MRC Protein Phosphorylation Group at University of Dundee
  • 1981 – 1985: PhD Department of Biochemistry, Trinity College, University of Dublin

Research interests

Chromosome Integrity

Chromosomes in eukaryotes control their environment to ensure that genomic integrity is maximised. We are interested in understanding mechanisms of genomic integrity operating at the molecular and cellular level, and determining the consequences when they fail.

Full publications


Cellular surveillance systems and their role in healthy aging

Research in our laboratory uses molecular cell biology approaches to understand quality control or surveillance mechanisms that operate in cells to ensure fidelity of function, the consequences when they fail, and how they may be exploited to ameliorate disease. Examples include the replication checkpoint, which operates to ensure that cells experiencing replication stress, can evoke appropriate DNA damage responses, reschedule cell cycle events, or initiate apoptosis, and quality control systems regulating processes involving RNA homeostasis, such as nonsense-mediated decay (NMD), histone mRNA decay (HD), and telomere stability.

We utilise a variety of disease cell models in mechanistic studies and utilise whole genome and new chemical entity (NCE) screening together with mass spectrometry and imaging techniques, coupled with in vitro assays, to synergistically probe both biological and NCE function.

Our chemical biology work focuses on exploring the use of ruthenium co-ordination complexes to explore novel chemical space affecting pathways of interest, as well as novel indole polycyclic derivatives that block NMD.

Our focus is to identify potential new therapeutic targets in relevant disease models, and our work on the replication checkpoint has identified a number of proteins and /or pathways which are of interest.

Figure 1

Future directions

A key focus concerns the functional characterisation of the DNA /RNA helicase Upf1 which acts pleiotropically to regulate NMD, HD and telomere integrity. We have identified a novel NMD inhibitor which, importantly, does not affect histone mRNA regulation or telomere integrity. We aim to utilise our expertise in genomic integrity and mass spectrometry to identify the target of this inhibitor as a potential therapeutic strategy for the treatment of nonsense mutation-associated disease.


  • Cystic Fibrosis Trust
  • Yorkshire Cancer Research
  • Royal Thai Higher Education Commission
  • Malaysia Trust Council (Majlis Amanah Rakyat)

Key collaborators

  • Prof Iain Coldham, Dept of Chemistry, University of Sheffield
  • Dr James Thomas, Dept of Chemistry, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Sarah Danson, Dept of Oncology, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Ferdinando Di Cunto, Department of Genetics, Biology& Biochemistry, University of Torino.

Undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules


  • BMS109-106 Pathobiology
  • BMS379 Cancer Biology (Co-ordinator)

Masters (MSc):

  • BMS6057 Cancer Biology (Co-ordinator)

Selected publications

Journal articles